he photo above is of a recent press conference led by venerable US Congressman Danny K. Davis on the sudden announcement of a CVS Pharmacy store closing on Chicago’s west side. In all, 11 stores in Chicago are slated to close and like the recent shuttering of several Walgreens stores in low-opportunity communities ( including two right here in Washington Heights), it “amounts to theft in the community,” says 28thWard Alderman Jason Ervin.
This past summer, the Endeleo Institute brought to light the absolute travesty of Walgreens closing its second pharmacy at 95thand Halsted, in a community with the city’s highest median age and five senior facilities. Count ‘em. Five! Much like the Walgreens response, the folks at CVS said it was a, “difficult business decision.” That our seniors (many of them homebound) can simply travel out of our already disadvantaged communities to pick up their prescriptions was their kneejerk solution.
You should know companies receive millions of dollars in tax breaks just to locate in these communities and it’s laudable to see Alderman Ervin’s plans to confer with city attorneys to seek possible reimbursement to the city. Those funds could be used to support local businesses in these soon-to-be- vacant storefronts situated prominently in our neighborhoods. Perhaps Congressman Davis will spearhead changes in economic policy, particularly when you consider health disparities found in black and brown neighborhoods, where the bulk of these store closings occur.
In addition to supporting such measures, Endeleo is working with research academic institutions for data that quantifies the devastating effects of pharmacy deserts in communities where access to medication is critical to community health. At the same time, we are looking from within to solve our own problems by revisiting the independent retailer model for business owners that better reflect the communities they serve. Just so happens neighboring Chicago State University has a premier pharmacy program and given our mission to strengthen existing assets, the prospects for perhaps an independent, family-owned pharmacy/grocery in both a food and pharmacy desert are well within our sights.